Some weeks after debuting its long anticipated refresh of the MacBook Pro, Apple also went ahead and released a literal Mac book. This $300 hardbound picture book, entitled “Designed by Apple in California” is a collection of 450 photographs of past and current Apple products, beginning with the 1998 Bondi Blue iMac.
The book itself is eye-catching, bound in white linen and “specially milled, custom-dyed paper with gilded matte silver edges, using eight color separations and low-ghost ink.” It serves as a spare visual tribute to the memory and work of Steve Jobs, and as Jony Ives explains in the foreword, the book “is an objective representation of our work that, ironically, describes who we are.” In other words, the point is that Apple’s beautifully designed products speak volumes for themselves. And after decades of designing tremendously popular and influential consumer technology, perhaps Apple has earned the right to pat itself on the back and make some money in the process.
But that didn’t do much to distract the internet commentariat from the fact that this is essentially a $300 paperweight. Stephen Colbert, sensing an easy target, ruthlessly skewers the book in a Late Show sketch, which notes that it uses “latest and most innovative technology from 1440”. The video, filmed like a typically high-minded Apple ad, features a bunch of fake Apple designers solemnly praising the book’s “cutting-edge” features, such as its “touch page technology”, which allows users to swipe their fingers on a page to turn it. You can even use it to kill spiders.
At a time when Microsoft is being lauded for doing a better Apple impression than Apple, releasing an analog photo retrospective that literally looks back at the past may have been ill-considered. At the very least, Apple didn’t need to market its latest book so breathlessly or charge a whopping $300 for it.